Cisco bolsters its security arsenal

Networking equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc. added to its growing portfolio of security products on Monday, agreeing to buy Protego Networks Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif. for US$65 million in cash.

Protego makes hardware and software that can spot and respond to threats on computer networks. Cisco plans to use Protego’s technology to boost its Self-Defending Networking initiative, a program to use Cisco technology to help administrators spot, isolate and fix network security problems, including viruses and worms, according to a Cisco statement.

Protego makes a rack-mounted security appliances that allow companies to manage information related to network attacks and security policies. The company’s PN-MARS family of appliances can collect and correlate logged data and configuration information from a range of security products and network devices, including switches, routers and firewalls. Visualization features allow network administrators to identify security hot spots or vulnerabilities on their networks. Using mitigation features in the products, administrators can respond manually or automatically respond to threats by pushing out configuration changes or commands to specific devices that thwart attacks.

A component called the PN-MARS Global Controller, released in October, allows companies to manage multiple Protego appliances on a network, giving administrators a central control and management point.

Protego’s 38 staff members will become a part of Cisco’s Security Technology Group. Cisco will use the technology to provide customers with multilayered and integrated security, according to a statement by Richard Palmer, vice president of the Security Technology Group.

Cisco made the Self-Defending Networking initiative a priority, striking deals with systems management vendors like IBM Corp. that will make it easier for customers to use Cisco products, in conjunction with other products, to spot and thwart security threats.

In November, IBM and Cisco unveiled product updates that will tie Cisco’s networking gear to IBM’s Tivoli software, enabling those products to work together to scan devices that are attempting to connect to a network to ensure compliance with network security policies. The announcement was part of Cisco’s Network Admission Control program to link security software and network infrastructure devices in an effort to better protect networks from security threats.

The company has acquired companies in the security and network management areas in recent months. In October, Cisco announced its intention to buy Perfigo Inc. for $74 million in cash, acquiring that company’s technology for securing endpoints such as remote worker desktops, mobile and wireless computers.

In November, Cisco announced plans to acquire Jahi Networks Inc., a startup that makes network management appliances for companies, for $16 million, giving Cisco technology that can link various network devices and manage them as a single system.

The acquisition of Protego is expected to close in the second quarter of Cisco’s fiscal year 2005, which ends on Jan. 29, Cisco said.

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